Last Friday the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board notified students, parents and staff at the Golden Learning Centre, in Balmertown, that they might have been exposed to COVID-19.
Contact tracing began once the positive case was identified and anyone who was not contacted by the Northwestern Health Unit is deemed not to be at risk of contracting the virus.
"Just because you've been the building with somebody who has a positive COVID-19 test, doesn't mean you're at risk of getting COVID-19. Because there are prevention measures in place,” said Sherri-Lynn Pharand, Director of Education for the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board. “It’s all about close contact, and the health unit determines what that close contact is.”
Pharand noted that the school board, with guidance from Ministry of Health, Northwestern Health Unit and the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, worked to develop a protocol to determine how the board would proceed if they became aware of a positive COVID-19 case in one of their schools.
That protocol works hand in hand with the board’s prevention measures, which include; entry protocols (i.e. hand sanitizer at all entrances), physical distancing in hallways and classrooms, masking staff and students, frequent hand washing and cohorting of students.
When a positive case of COVID-19 in a school is identified, the health unit takes the lead and helps determine the risk to members of the school population and which individuals would be at higher risk of contracting the illness. The schools help with contract tracing as students and staff members’ locations throughout the day are tracked.
“All year we are keeping seating plans, bus seating plans, and timetables of where students and staff are at different times of the day so that we can contract trace very quickly,” Pharand added.
While the board has preventive measures and protocols in place, stopping the spread of COVID-19 begins at home. Each student and staff member is encouraged to complete the Ontario government’s self-assessment questionnaire daily. The self-assessment will help differentiate between seasonal allergies or common cold symptoms that may be related to COVID-19. Students and staff are encouraged to stay home when sick.